Each athlete that wears the red, white and blue has a unique story to how their careers came to fruition. From the junior level to the senior squad, USA Field Hockey is putting national team athletes under the spotlight to share their journeys.
To be in a position to represent Team USA is a lifelong dream come true. Making it to the international stage takes time, patience, determination and grit. Along the way athletes develop words of wisdom to pass along to the next generation who share a similar dream. For U.S. Women’s National Team athlete Alyssa Parker, that advice is short and simple: wear sunscreen!
In all seriousness, Parker was active in soccer before giving field hockey a try. She had plenty of influence to pick up a stick in the fifth grade as her mother played in high school and started a youth program in their hometown of Woodbine, Md. Her older sister was part of that program, and as the younger sibling, she decided to try the game for herself.
And at first, she hated it.
“I thought it was too slow and I still loved soccer at the time,” said Parker. “I continued to play field hockey alongside soccer and I grew to appreciate the skill and technical aspect of it. It was much more of a challenge to me and I’ve always liked a challenge, so eventually field hockey won over soccer.”
With both being fall sports, Parker had to choose just one in high school and remained unsure as tryouts rapidly approached. Soccer ultimately lost the battle thanks to the coaching styles of Ginger Kincaid, as well as her older sister as a member of the varsity squad. Parker went on to be teammates with her senior sibling, and while field hockey helped fill up the fall, she also played basketball and lacrosse to earn 12 letters at Glenelg High School, was named The Washington Post’s All-Met Player of the Year twice, All-Howard county four times and Howard County Player of the Year her sophomore, junior and senior seasons – amounting to one of the state’s highest decorated athletes to date. She was also captain for three years, helped lead the team to back-to-back state titles in 2010 and 2011, and was the second player in Maryland history to register 100 goals and assists.
While competing at Glenelg, Parker kept her skills sharp by playing with the Washington Wolves club team.
“Amy Wood and Joann Engestrom were my coaches and I think they did a fantastic job teaching a run-and-gun athlete such as myself the important of finesse, while still letting me play to my strengths,” said Parker. “I also think they did a phenomenal job keeping field hockey fun which was so important to me back then and still is today.”
With college right around the corner, Parker knew in her heart of hearts that the University of Maryland would be her home away from home.
“I’m from Maryland and both my parents are Terrapins, but what sold me on Maryland was the family environment of the team,” said Parker. “Missy Meharg and Dina Rizzo recruited me and I felt right at home the moment I visited. The current players were so welcoming and not to mention, Maryland was No. 1 at the time and who wouldn’t want to play for the best?”
Parker was also a recognizable name within the Olympic Development Pathway having played for the U-19 USWNT. In 2013, after aging out of that squad, she was one of the last athletes to be cut from the U-21 USWNT. That same year, USA played in the Junior World Cup in Mönchengladbach, Germany. She used the moment to push further the following year.
“I was devastated,” commented Parker. “So, I trained hard (cheesy, but true) and tried out again the following summer, made it and played in 2014-15. I even got to tour Europe with the team in 2015. Then in 2016, I tried out for the U.S. Women’s National Team during a trial in January and I found out I had made it. I’ve been training full-time ever since.”
Parker made her USWNT debut at the Hawke’s Bay Cup in Christchurch, New Zealand in a friendly match against the host nation. She recalls catching nerves as she stepped onto the pitch in front of the home crowd, but reminded herself: keep it simple, and all would be fine. USA went on to win that game 6-2.
Since then, Parker has become a recognizable face in the midfield for the red, white and blue. In her downtime she likes to give back to the field hockey community through coaching at summer camps as much as she can. She also volunteers at her mother’s program.
“I like to grow the game and spread my love of field hockey to the younger generation of athletes," said Parker. "Showing that you can take field hockey seriously, while still keeping it fun!"